- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2008

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy L. Lanier says she will continue relying on her signature All Hands on Deck initiative and similar, short-term policing strategies until the agency can hire more officers.

“Until I get the sworn strength of the department up pretty significantly, I have to find very different, creative ways of getting people on the street en masse,” she said.

The five All Hands on Deck weekends last year, which started in June and required every officer in the department to work patrol shifts, resulted in mixed success as the number of homicides increased to 181, the first rise since 2002. The rate of overall crime also increased, including armed robberies and assaults with guns.

During the July 28 weekend, seven persons, including a 3-year-old, were wounded in a shooting at the Edgewood Terrace apartments in Northeast.

No shooting or homicides occurred during the final weekend, in mid-December, but just 400 arrests were made, compared with 688 the weekend of June 6.

The first weekend reportedly cost the department more than $1 million in overtime, but officials said scheduling over the year reduced overtime costs.

Assistant Chief Joshua Ederheimer, head of the department’s professional development bureau, said he is recruiting aggressively so the department can reach its sworn strength of 4,200, though the ideal size of the department as not been determined. The department’s recruiting budget is about $1.8 million, he said.

The head of the D.C. Council’s committee on public safety blames the administration of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty for passing on a proposal made early last year by his predecessor, Anthony A. Williams, to determine the department’s optimal size.

“I fault the Fenty administration for dropping the ball,” said D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat.

Mr. Fenty, a Democrat, said he stands by the council’s decision to increase the department’s sworn strength.

“I think the council’s decision to set the number at 4,200 spoke very clearly about the number of police we want to see,” he said. “The number is at 4,200, and we are recruiting aggressively to reach that.”

In the summer of 2006, the council twice increased the sworn strength of the department from 3,800 to 4,200 officers, amid the increase in shootings that prompted Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey to call a crime emergency.

Chief Lanier is examining the departments staffing levels but called it a complex process that relies on dozens of variables such as the types of crimes and number of calls for service.

She said the method likely would have to be revised continually as she make technological improvements to the department.

Mr. Fenty last month again declined to say whether he would support a study to determine the ideal size of the department and said he would first have to discuss it with Chief Lanier, whom he appointed in November 2006.

Chief Lanier said the department will grow from about 3,900 officers to 4,050 by the end of the fiscal 2008, in October, but will not reach 4,200 until October 2009.

Kristopher Baumann, head of the union that represents the city’s police officers, has criticized Chief Lanier on several compensation-and-benefits issues, saying they have force the department to recruit from the bottom of the barrel just to offset attrition.

Chief Ederheimer said the department maintains some of the highest standards in the D.C. area and has remained selective, picking less than 10 percent of applicants.

“We’re definitely not just picking up anybody off the street,” he said.

However, Chief Ederheimer acknowledged the city has lost candidates to other area police departments and agencies because they do not require 60 hours of college-level course work as the city’s department does.

The annual starting salary for city police officers is $48,716. After 18 months of service, most can expect to earn a base salary of about $53,299 a year. The starting salary in Montgomery County last year was $45,165, and the basic starting salary is the city of Alexandria is $43,617 a year.

Chief Lanier say the department can hire only 100 officers a year without compromising standards, which became paramount to the department after a hiring push in 1989 and 1990.

In the early 1990s, the department became mired in scandal as a result of hiring qualified and unprofessional officers, many of whom were engaged in criminal activity.

Chief Ederheimer said the department is beginning to make gains in recruiting after two years of narrowly avoiding a loss of officers.

In fiscal 2005, the department hired 232 officers, just one more officer than it lost. In fiscal 2006, it lost and hired the same number of officers, which was 224.

The department in fiscal 2007 lost 191 officers, offset by the hiring of 301.

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